Election season is near and so is the season of making irresponsible statements to woo voters. Since the elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh are being given more importance by the Indian media due to them being big states, brain-farts from leaders of those states get discussed and debated; and that has allowed leaders in Goa to make silly statements and hope to get away from it.
Recently, AAP Supremo Arvind Kejriwal descended in Goa to address a public meeting to drum up support for AAP in Goa. Instead of choosing a centrally located venue in Goa, AAP went deep into South Goa, to the constituency of its CM candidate, Elvis Gomes. Another feature of this constituency Cuncolim, is that 50% odd of its population is made up of “minorities”, and the surrounding constituencies have the “minority” population going up to even 71%.
AAP is trying to win these “secular” constituencies, and thus its candidates are supposed to prove their commitment to secularism. One of AAP Goa’s founding leaders, and candidate from Panaji, Valmiki Naik has been trying to do the same after Congress recently released a picture of Naik purportedly seen cheering to a crowd of BJP supporters after AAP lost the North Goa Lok Sabha poll in 2014.
To prove his secularism, Valmiki Naik chose the aforementioned election rally, which was graced even by Arvind Kejriwal. He gave various details of his life, to prove to the “secular” audience, that he is not a communal RSS-wadi. Listen to his claim to secularism:
He gave various details, such as staying in a home owned by a Christian and his sister being convent-educated. But then he pulled out the smoking gun: “I eat beef”. It is important to note that its perfectly legal in Goa to eat beef, but the statement when seen as a whole is important:
“I am not communal….I eat beef”
Leaders of the Right Wing are often ostracised for bringing food habits and religion into the political sphere to influence voters. How is this different from a Sadhvi or some random Baba pandering to religious feelings?
Whether he wants to eat beef or not, is his choice, but the fact that he chose to declare this from a public political rally to score a political point indicates that he links food habits to politics, that too communal politics as eating beef is considered a transgression, almost a sin, by large section of the Hindu community.
Also, is it to be inferred then, that Naik is implying that all non-beef eaters are communal? Essentially majority of the Hindus are communal? Such religiously charged statements used for political gains could have been expected from some uneducated candidate in rural India, but Naik claims to be an alumni of the University of Texas. And of course, a he is a candidate of the Aam Aadmi Party, which claims not to stoop down to caste and communal politics.
Furthermore, what is even more worrisome is the reaction of the crowd – presumably made up of AAP supporters – present at the rally. When Naik mentions the instance of religious coexistence of photos of both Jesus Christ and Hindu gods, the crowd is virtually silent. They don’t cheer him at that instance. Coexistence and mutual respect is not worthy of an applause for the crowd, but when Naik says that he eats beef, he gets the loudest cheer.
Perhaps that’s the perfect embodiment of what secularism has come to mean in India – not mutual respect when Hinduism is involved, but an aggressive one-upmanship over Hindu beliefs.